Pets, Animals, Birds & Fish

. . . During the Late Roman Republic



ROMAN PETS

The Romans had various pets just like we have today; but they weren't all that unusual or exotic by today's standards For instance, typical Roman pets were the greyhound, the ferret, the blackbird, the nightingale, the parrot, and small monkeys.

The Romans also owned dogs, and the greyhound wasn't the only breed they kept as pets. Some breeds the Romans liked were the Laconian (Spartan), the Molossian, and the Vertragus (an ancestor of our greyhound). By far the most commonly owned dog was a small white dog--the Maltese. Like they do today, dogs often wore tags in case they were lost or went astray. Dogs also provided security; it was very common to see a fierce dog chained near the front door of a villa or domus to deter thieves.

Cats, however, weren't common in Rome. At this time, they were more common in Egypt. Instead of cats, the Romans kept ferrets as pets to control mice and rats

Birds, on the other hand, were often kept as pets. Crows, magpies, and starlings were quite popular because they could be taught to talk.

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ANIMALS FAMILIAR TO THE ROMANS

The Romans were also familiar with lots of other animals, some prevalent in Italy and some brought in from exotic locations elsewhere.

ANIMALS PREVALENT IN ITALY

In addition to domesticated animals such as bulls, cows, horses, sheep, and goats, the following wild animals were common throughout the Italian peninsula:

  • brown bear
  • chamois and roe deer
  • country foxes (red fox particularly)
  • fallow deer
  • ibex
  • mouflon sheep
  • mountain partridge
  • rabbit
  • wild boar
  • grey wolf
  • tree squirrel
  • horseshoe, little brown, and other bats
  • red-backed mice (bank voles)
  • field mice
  • snakes (poisonous vipers were found, especially in the more mountainous terrain)
  • horseshoe bats ranged throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. 

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ANIMALS BROUGHT IN FROM ELSEWHERE

  • wild boar
  • lion
  • lynx
  • rhinoceros (aka "monkey-pig")
  • hippo
  • crocodile.
  • Around 50 BCE, the Romans began to use tigers, leopards, lions, bears, bulls and elephants in hunts and arena combats. 

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BIRDS

BIRDS PREVALENT IN ITALY

In addition to roosters, hens, and chickens, some other birds prevalent in Italy were:

  • Blackbirds
  • Crows
  • Goldfinches
  • Magpies
  • Nightingales
  • Pigeons (several varieties)
  • Starlings

Pigeons were bred for food (they were regarded as a great delicacy) and carrier pigeons were bred to act as messengers

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BIRDS BROUGHT IN FROM ELSEWHERE

Some of the birds typically brought into Italy from elsewhere were:

  • Heathcocks (a type of grouse from Phrygia)
  • Peacocks

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FISH

FISH PREVALENT IN ITALY

Some of the fish prevalent near the Italian peninsula were:

  • Blue Fin Tuna
  • Swordfish
  • White Shark

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OTHER FACTS

  • Common sacrificial animals used in religious rites were bulls, cows, roosters, horses, sheep, and goats
     
  • The Romans also raised fish in fish ponds, both for food and for pets. Pompey´s wealthy nephew Hirrus was famous for having myriad fish ponds.
     
  • There were no skunks, raccoons, beavers, or opossums.
     

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Last Updated:

Sunday, January 20, 2008